Union Furnace (2015) Movie Review

Movies that follow the “battle royale” type of format are always hit or miss. You know the sort… so many people enter and have to fight for survival with only one person left standing. Often times, I find that these types of films fall into the action genre more than the horror genre. Nicholas Bushman’s Union Furnace is different than those movies. Union Furnace is an intense film, with an incredibly charming villain and a plot that really made me think. 

Union Furnace was directed Nicholas Bushman and stars Mike Dwyer, Seth Hammond, Katie Keene and The Thing’s (1982) Keith David. The film follows the story of Cody Roy McCloud (Dwyer), a small-town crook who’s at the end of his rope when a mysterious stranger (Hammond) offers him a chance at a second life. The only catch is that Cody must play a game where he would have to wager everything, including his life.

Seth Hammond as Lion

I’ve seen so many horror movies at this point that it really takes a lot for me to be scared while watching something new. It even takes a lot for me to feel uncomfortable. Union Furnace managed to do just that. The ending is incredibly intense, and my heart was pounding the whole time. The scenario with the final two “contestants” is terrifying, and felt more than realistic. The characters seem desperate, and it’s almost heartbreaking that they have to go through this to get to a better life.

One of my favorite parts of the film was Seth Hammond’s performance as the main villain, Lion. This whole situation is being viewed by a group of masked individuals, with the most prominent being Lion, who is wearing a lion mask. Shocker, I know. Lion is charming and seems like an alright guy to be around. I wanted him to be on screen at all times. He reminded me of an old time game show host. He was almost this calming presence in a very tense situation. Hammond was funny and delightfully weird. When Lion would speak with McCloud at various stages through the contest, it was almost like Lion was an inspirational speaker. He was telling Cody about all the things they’d do together when the contest was over and he had won.

I call him the villain of the film, but it didn’t always feel that way. He came off like a friend at times, despite being the one of the main people in charge of the entire contest. The other characters were all well done, too. The idea is that you aren’t supposed to know too much about each character, so that added to the mystique of them all. Except for Jim from Kentucky. Holy shit, he was annoying. First time in a long time, I’ve cheered when a character got killed off.

Mike Dwyer as Cody Roy McCloud

The other thing that I really liked about the film was the plot. This wasn’t the typical “Hunger Games-esque and then there were none” situation. The contests weren’t these epic bouts of strength where each competitor had to fight for their lives. No, they had to play board games and musical chairs, but with the added twist that if they lost, they would be killed. In a subgenre I find stale, Union Furnace has added a unique twist to freshen things up. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Union Furnace. It managed to get my heart pounding and brought a freshness to a subgenre that really feels stale and boring. Seth Hammond’s performance as Lion was great, and really made the film as enjoyable as it was. I’m really impressed with Union Furnace, and I’m anxious to see what Nicholas Bushman has in store for us next!

About Matt Stumpf

My name's Matt, and I love all things horror. Books, movies, video games; you name it, I like it. Martyrs is my favorite horror film, and everyone should watch it. I also have a soft-spot for those cheesy 80's slashers. I'm still slightly convinced that Faces of Death is real.

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